A fabulous way of using day-old bread in this delicious ripe tomato dish, Panzanella is a refreshing Tuscan summer bread salad of humble origins which is quick to make, requires no cooking, and is a wonderful dish for hot summer days. It is really simple dish to assemble, but the key to a good panzanella is fresh produce especially the tomatoes (organic if possible) as it has very little seasoning, and it relies almost entirely on these ingredients to achieve flavor. Panzanella can be served either as a starter to a meal or on its own as a main.
The best recipe we have found so far is Sara Rosso’s, her wonderful blog Ms. Adventures in Italy has some wonderful Italian recipes, so make sure you pop by and have a read.
Note: Remember that the bread should be the star of this dish, so keep its quantity higher than the other ingredients. Using unsalted Tuscan bread requires a little extra salt be put into the salad – make sure you taste it after adding the olive oil and vinegar to determine how much salt to add.
Day-old bread (unsalted Tuscan is most authentic) – Cucumber, peeled – Tomatoes (Roma/San Marzano/plum varieties suggested) – Basil leaves – Red Onion – Olive oil & vinegar – Salt & Pepper
Suggestions for serving two people: 4-5 slices of day-old bread (1/2 loaf), 1 cucumber, 4 (Roma / small) tomatoes (or 1-2 large), 5-10 basil leaves, 1/4 red onion.
Take the day-old bread, and lightly moisten it under the faucet. It should be moistened all the way through. If it’s too wet, gently squeeze excess water from the bread with your hands and set aside while chopping vegetables. The bread should crumble, not clump/collapse or get soggy.
Shred the bread into a large salad bowl. I like to keep some larger pieces of bread in my panzanella, but you can crumble the bread down until there are very fine pieces, or “breadcrumbs” that resemble more couscous.
Cut the cucumbers and tomatoes into pieces and add them to the bowl. Thinly slice a red onion and chiffonade the basil (or shred it with your hands).
Add vinegar and olive oil and mix completely (start with a small amount of each, like 1 T. of vinegar and 3 T. of olive oil) and add more to taste. Taste before adding salt and pepper.
The salad can be served immediately or chilled for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.
credits: photo & recipe courtesy of Ms. Adventures in Italy.